I started a blog on the workings of the IOF. It has received quite a bit of traffic from this site after I mentioned it in a different thread, so I thought it would make sense to create a separate thread for discussion.https://iofreflections.blog/
I was the Chairman of the MTBO Commission for four years. Saw more of the internal workings of the IOF establishment than ever wanted to see. I resigned in December 2016 when I could bear it any longer.
Posts so far:
- Why did I start to write this blog
- IOF Finances – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
- Highest standards of transparency
- WOD 2017 – beyond the headlines
- Where the money is coming from
- Live Orienteering in action
You paint a picture of IOF finances that seems similar to what OUSA had been facing in recent years, and dealt with recently by major budget cuts, just before it would have run out of money.
I am not painting the picture. I am trying to reflect reality ;-)
I was also shocked about the situation until I started to scratch the surface. I knew that the situation was not rosy, but never expected to be so bad. 8 year decline eroded reserves to a dangerous level. The budgets accepted a year ago turned out to be way too optimistic.
In January the combined result of 2016-17 was revised downwards by approximately €160k. 4 months after it was approved! Compare this to total reserves of €114k at the end of 2015, and estimated €77k at the end of 2016.
There was no vis major, no major bombshell. Simply shocking.
Good to read your thoughts, Sandor. Disappointed you had to leave the MTBO Commission.
Thanks, Michael. I was not happy to leave the MTBO Commission either, but could not put up with the environment of the IOF it any longer. I still do quite a bit of MTBO related work, though with no official position (and no constraints to share what I see and what I think).
I hope I can add to the general good of orienteering by sharing my insights gained over 6 years into the various activities, culture, and decision making mechanism of the IOF, so that people can make up their opinion on the course our sport is. I hope this will evolve into a broader debate and rethink our route choice as a sport.
New post: https://iofreflections.blog/2017/07/02/presidents-...
The Presidents' Conference will take place in Tartu on Wednesday, 5 July.
Will the presidents of member federations force the IOF leadership to talk about the serious financial situation?
Will the President and the Council have the courage to talk openly about the financial issues of the IOF?
According to the published agenda, all they want to discuss is how to rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic.
I like your courage that you speak about activities which are not so transperent....Do you really think that things are so bad or do you want just more transperency about everything IOF do? Bankruptcy? This is possible only when you have high debts and you can't repay with your normal incomes. In most cases you restructure costs or you cut some of the activities. This is what IOF is doing probably all the time.... maybe we all need just a detail " P&L sheet" with a clear explanation.
The IOF is not bankrupt, but in a difficult financial situation. If they continue like this, bankruptcy is behind the corner.
5 out of the 8 past years since 2008 were loss making. Reserves shrunk from €230,000 to around €78,000 (a 66% drop). Does this give you the impression that management restructured costs and cut activities as needed?
In fact, they added cost and activities in the hope of increasing revenues that did not materialise. They missed their own 2016 forecast of net income made in August(!) 2016 by €100,000!
Another miss like that and no money left.
In the meantime the level of transparency has decreased (maybe not unrelated to the continued losses).
See details inhttps://iofreflections.blog/2017/06/01/iof-finance...https://iofreflections.blog/2017/06/09/highest-sta...
Why not just increase the athlete licence fees to bring in more revenues and force participants out of the sport altogether? That way there won't be any pesky athletes to have to manage and costs should decrease dramatically.
Being inspired by the WOC, here is a new post. A historic overview of IOF expense evolution from 2000 to present. https://iofreflections.blog/2017/07/04/where-the-m...
The short summary to whet your appetite:
- IOF expenses have grown unrelentlessly since 2005, from around €200,000 to a budgeted €900,000 in 2018
- Staff cost is the dominant expense that also provided the backbone for total growth, an additional confirmation of Parkinson’s Law
- Spend on IT systems has exploded from €0 in 2013 to a planned €110,000 in 2018 – or close to 4 times what the IOF spends on quality assurance for all events in a typical year
- The Olympic project is a less visible sink for freely spendable money, but its average annual cost is comparable to all spend on IOF event quality
- Some growth is related to taking on flow through expenses (TV, AD), that were part of the sport, but now they are more visible, which is a good thing.
Why not just increase the athlete license fees
Brilliant idea, it should be implemented by OUSA. Only fully certified, licensed, background-checked athletes are eligible to compete. Orienteering is an elite sport, just like golf , it is not for poor people. Those irredeemable, the deplorables etc. do not belong here.
This is not to express a view on the substantive matters that Sandor raises, but in largely voluntary organisations seeking to raise their game, there's an understandable transfer of work from volunteer to paid. It's not all the Parkinson effect.
I'll try and illustrate it with my situation, I once had a salaried job with a government agency. When I did work for my club or the national federation, there was no pay, and I claimed expenses only. In truth there was probably a subsidy provided by my employer to orienteering in the form of (some) time, photocopying etc. There was no recompense for running my car, any orienteering business was incidental to being a competitor, or my personal affairs.
The time came when the job ended, and I became an orienteering contractor/retailer. I contracted for mapping, I became the federation's first paid employee at 1 day/week, and I took a cardboard box of compasses to events for sale. As time went on I faced many other costs of running a business - accounting, pitching for business (not all of which transpired), insurance, buying a trailer for the increased equipment, running a computer etc etc Now all of those things that were merely incidental to my old job became costs. Including most of my mileage. And holidays.
So for me a whole lot of costs ceased to become "free" and became real. Posting off some compasses for example involves time and mileage as its not just done on the way to something else. For clubs, more and more mapping was contracted. For the federation, more jobs have been put on a paid basis. Partly this is a result of a desire to "appear more professional" but its also a recognition by orienteers of reduced leisure time and our inability to do some things with volunteers.
I am sure this effect is at work in the IOF. The question is are we getting value for the paid staff. I have the same worries about my federation.
Michael, You are right that part of the expense growth is unavoidable with changing times, and once you start, it is difficult to stop on the slope.
The question is how much can the IOF (in essence, we) afford. More staff, and more paid activities, and bigger Olympic dreams, and eventor, and even bigger eventor, and Live Center - and renewed Live Orienteering, and more AD, and more media, and the dreams have no limits.
5 loss making years out of the past 8, disappearance of 2/3 of the reserves, and very little sustainable change to show for it. We need a little miracle to happen: commercial revenue increase by a magnitude, and no financial "surprises" for years. Neither of them looks likely.
Otherwise the music will stop soon, and somebody will have to pick up the tab. And have no illusion, we (athletes and volunteer organisers) will pay for it, either directly in more IOF fees, or through our national federations.
Just a minor nit-pick to the newest blog entry: the WorldGames 2017 are in Wroclaw, not Warsaw.
OK, it looks they spent more in the last years.
Here is my thoughts about IT. For IT budget I remembered that they said that Eventor will be a huge benefit not just for IOF but also for federations. Can you name pros & cons for a period from the date when they bought it. Spending a huge money over and over on IT solutions is questionable especialy with limited results. What future investments in IT can bring; process simplifications, better UX, less manual work, etc. Investing in IT is always a strategic desicion and maintenance can also be very expensive. Did IOF make the right steps here?
If IOF invest in IT mostly our / federation's money and not money they have secured based on their marketing activities or income from the LIVE platform why we as a financial contributor (federations) can't have access to the LIVE platform? It can be limited to 5/10 users & with the agreed rules for public broadcast but this could give each federation a chance to make a special promotional event for each WOC. Why IOF is not willing to make a project (similar to WOD) how to enter on new markets / pilot projects / promotional events. These questions should be resolved /presented before each new investment in IT. We need to look diferently on our assests that we already have and that we still want to finance and develop. It would be great to have a report, numbers,... on what IOF really achieved so far with IT LIVE platform.
I am yet to meet (or hear) about an IOF event organiser (WRE, World Cup, various Championships), who - on balance - was positive about Eventor. It may, and I stress may, work for pure elite events. For others the process is more complicated, more manual work involved, lot's of frustration for being forced to use the system. I will have a separate post about Eventor issues later.
I agree that that major decisions, like investments in strategic IT solutions, should be broadly discussed using numbers. Currently the practice is different, to put it mildly. From within the IOF structures it was impossible to have meaningful discussions. That's why I started my blog after I left.
If you are interested in the performance of the Live platform, you may read the PR article about it: http://orienteering.org/following-orienteering-liv...
It is my note that few of the positive things mentioned have anything to do with the Live platform, but more about TV broadcast, and online activity in general like sharing IOF posts. The "3000 watching the stream" does not match with the numbers I remember seeing on-screen that peaked around 1000. (Anybody saw different numbers??) So yes, I agree, it would be great to have a report, numbers,... on what IOF really achieved so far with IT LIVE platform - both the current one and the previous one.
Insolvency, bankruptcy, and Orienta
Trying to clarify some basic financial concepts through the situation of Orienta, an artist in her mid 50s. She is trying to switch from a cheap and cheerful lifestyle to a fourfold more expensive one at the detriment of her finances. We have a look at what insolvency and technical bankruptcy would mean for her. https://iofreflections.blog/2017/07/11/insolvency-...
BTW if anyone is interested in that famous "art festival organised every 4 year" look at another "artist" wanting to get in. Dancesport is on that road (or thinks it is). There used to be 2 world organisations, one professional, one amateur, until about 10 or so years ago. Then, one of them decided to want to become part of the Olympics. It started to change rules - to what it sees as becoming more aligned to what the Olympic dreams require. Now, there are about 6 world organisations (I lost count), including competing "world championships", competitors and officials are basically only going to limited number of events, there is no single event where all the best are competing together, and by now, even the dances that are called the same, look quite different in the different organisations. The one thing that isn't a mess, is the financial situation of one organisation which is very strong (but then it was even when it started the process). Or at least that's what it looks like, I haven't checked the balances/cash flow closely.
Yes, that is a very good point I also plan to write about. The money that is the main objective in the wild goose chase for Olympic participation may shake up things quite a bit. Imagine SkiO getting $1m-$2m sgrant from the IOC while current IOF budget is below $1m. Difficult to imagine no strain in the system. The good thing is that it is very very unlikely.
The point is not what money would do to the organisation once the sport is in the Olympics. The point is what the PROMISE of a potential of that money (or raised profile of the sport in many ways) does to the sport that is chasing it - almost in all cases with absolutely no hope of getting in (and for many reasons it is extremely unlikely that ANY new sport gets in, the very few that might, are all waaay ahead in the long queue of sports federations wanting participation status).
The Olympics do seem to allow a trickle of new sports, but they seem to be ones that the young like to watch, like snowboarding. America's national Olympic committee did pay for several nice maps near its national Olympic training center, which are still used frequently. Getting in the Olympics does seem unlikely though.
I have always been under the impression that Ski-O was (much) more likely to be a demonstration sport in the Winter Olympics, than foot-O in the Summer Olympics.
Supposedly, if ski o gets in, it will immediately be a full medal sport, because it had been a demonstration sport half a century ago. But I'm not sure whether that story is true. The question is whether ski o is thrilling enough, like extreme sports. (Extreme ski o? Might be worth a try if someone really does want Olympic inclusion. Otherwise give it up.)
There's no such thing as demonstration sports any more (hasn't been since the 1980s, in fact). However, host cities are going to be allowed to select a small number (not sure how many) of medal sports. No doubt they'll do this with at least half an eye to the home country's medal prospects - with Paris seeming likely to get 2024, perhaps it would have been in our interests for Thierry still to be around....(One thing that does work in our favour here is that by the standards of Olympic sports, our infrastructure is dirt-cheap).
I still think Olympic inclusion is a long shot, but with the changes that have been made at the IOC level, it's perhaps a 10% longshot rather than a 5% longshot. (I'm also of the view that a lot of the things that are being done towards making a bid for the Olympics, like making the sport more spectator- and viewer-friendly, are broadly in our interests whether the Olympics existed or not).
The reason why ski-O was mentioned a fair bit some years back was that at the time, unlike the Summer Games which was trying to control its size, the Winter Games were actively looking for new events - the logic being that 2 weeks is the realistic minimum length for the Games because that's how long it takes to play an ice hockey tournament (although if that's the consideration, I'm not sure why they can't start group-stage matches before the opening ceremony, as football does for the Summer Games?), but there wasn't really enough other content to fill 2 weeks. I'm not sure if this is still the case.
I would say 10% longshot is too optimistic. Beside new sports for Tokyo 2020 also most of the sports which are already in preparing changes in disciplines to fit within IOC agenda and TV youth viewership. We can't gain any advantage over the other sports just because we already have mix-relay.
"Plans call for staging the skateboarding and sports climbing events in temporary venues installed in urban settings, marking a historic step in bringing the Games to young people and reflecting the trend of urbanisation of sport."
I think the security issues have become too big and important aspects of the Olympics that they would not let people running around the city. Whatever we do, we all know that temporary venue could be the only chance to have at least 1% long-term shot. This calls for -> Maze orienteering on Stadium. I'm not interested in such "simplification and urbanisation of our sport" and that is the reason why we need to fix open IOF directions for this on-going Olympic process. I would rather see that IOF GA vote on this question so we can put this idea from the table and that we all know that Stadium orienteering is not a possible direction for officials. If we don't vote then the question is open and officials will have no problem in the future to throw more money into promotion and to test new best "olympic discipline".
Big custom-planted corn maze. Just sayin'...
The online coverage of major orienteering events has lots of interest to orienteers. To make it of interest to the public, I think that it needs a few more things:
- head cam in addition to live GPS track, so that the viewer can see what it looks like. Orienteers can imagine this quite easily, less so the public. Perhaps also 3D graphics depicting the terrain.
- pre recorded segments discussing the various routes on the long legs, with video of someone doing sections of each route, or 3D graphics to better let the viewer see what the terrain is like and what the choices are. Also segments discussing the terrain, and the challenges it poses. Maybe segments discussing the choice of shoe, and its impact on running on rock, logs, moss, etc. And of course personal background segments (human interest).
- Lots more camera coverage, such drones, fixed cameras, hand held chase cams, etc.
- Show the races head to head, to some degree. For instance, overlay the position of top competitors at thae same time in their race atop the map and track of the current competitor.
- Shots of blood and gore. Maybe competitors splashing through muddy marshes would suffice. Or racing downhill at great speed.
One can argue about whether appealing to the great unwashed is a good thing, but if that's the desire (and Olympics are heavily centered around appeal to the masses, as is much television), then I suspect that such things are needed.
I'm all for new forms of orienteering and have embraced rogaining, MTBO, PWT, Orientshow etc with interest, and local experimentation. The terms "long distance" and "sprint" could be limiting our thinking to races between 12-100 minutes, there are lots of fun possibilities both above and below that.
But I think that Sandor's point is that in pursuing some of these, our international body is being reckless with the money at its disposal. Especially when there are signs that some of our highest level events are not as technically sound as they should be. Elsewhere on AP are suggestions that a JWOC race this week might have been affected by unmapped tracking caused by the Fin5 public event. We could debate whether these are occasional and understandable faults, or whether the QA side of the sport is under-resourced.
I will make a positive vote for eventor. It makes a big difference to the challenges organising events. Positive in my opinion and experience.
I think the wider point is, for a large organisation the question should be having a (realistic) vision of where the sport is headed, and then figure out what needs to be done to get there, then make sure there is sufficient funding to walk through that road.
If an organisation's sole target is to get to the Olympics (I am not saying that is the case with IOF, but I know it was the case with one organisation in DanceSport which is why I referred to it), then it will take all action and focus all money on that. If that goal is not achievable, then not only all the money and effort is wasted, AND the sport is transformed to something different for no good reason, but at the same time the opportunity to shape it to something that would be better for the sport is lost.
So it is a question of both the direction we are travelling and whether the way we do it is appropriate, in my mind. If (if) the IOF is trying to take us to somewhere where we can not ever go, and go bankrupt at the same time, we both change the sport in ways that may harm the sport itself and lose the governing body at the same time. There could be some positive changes as side effects, but who says we could not get those positive changes as well (and much more) whilst targeting more realistic goals and spending money sensibly? Wasting money and effort on something you can not get diverts that money and effort from something else that could be a good target instead.
With regards to Liveorienteering - I don't think anyone argues that live coverage is a bad thing. I think the question is, is it value for money and is the way it is packaged as a paid service a viable/appropriate proposition? I.e. the JWOC this week is free (although granted that the video coverage is far less professional than the WOC was), as opposed to the WOC which was paid, but don't forget that the only thing you effectively had to pay for was to actually watch it live - all the 3 components of the service (video, GPS, results) became freely available very shortly after the event was finished - and in some countries freely available through TV coverage anyway. Hence - is this a viable product as a paid service? If not, where are we expecting to recover the investment (e.g. TV licenses)? Is THAT realistic? If not, is it within the means of the IOF to pay for the development and upkeep of that service?
Olympics is a dead duck..why be part of it?
There are more potential options nowadays than in the past:
1) Olympics and/or TV, appealing to a mass audience
2) something like live orienteering, targeted at a subset of the public
3) something like live orienteering, targeted at orienteers
4) a quiet, obscure sport
Decades ago, the options were mostly 1 or 4. Our current status is 3. Pursuing 1 is still possible (though it's a big climb to achieve mass appeal in more than a few countries, and probably a big climb past that to Olympics), but 2 is another option, probably achievable sooner than 1. Making orienteering intelligible and compelling to a mass audience that doesn't (yet) know the sport much is a lot of work. But finding some subset of the public that loves maps, navigation, adventure racing, rogaine, puzzles, and/or running through forest (or at least watching that) seems much more feasible in today's internet marketing world. Find and appeal to a large enough such audience (say, a hundred thousand worldwide), and live orienteering (enhanced to speak to such an audience) might manage to self support via advertising, without subscription fees. And that audience might attract a little more sponsorship outside the top countries, and for the IOF. I'm not saying that orienteering should pursue 1, 2, 3 or 4, but it's a question worth asking, especially if pursuing 1 is proving too costly and too far from fruition, and 3 is proving hard to achieve at adequate quality with fees that the market will bear.
Neil, are you referring to "Australian eventor" or "IOF eventor"?
I have to admit that I am yet to talk to an organiser of international events who was positive about "IOF eventor" on balance. The IOF implementation is a clumsy system in many aspects with little net benefit to the organisers.
As a competitor who has had to register for both IOF Eventor and Australian Eventor, I found both an annoying extra step with no benefits, and ANOTHER bloody username and password. Why a 70-yo needs to be in IOF Eventor is beyond me.
Because it will be used for WMOC entry from now on?
I use the same user name for both, as well as Swedish and Norwegian Eventor :)
I love eventor(Aust)It is easy to enter and pay for events and easy access to results afterwards. I just wish all states used it to list their events. Like all technology one has to learn how to use it!
Which (Aust) states don't use it to list their events?
I think all states list there events, but some dont use it for Results
Not many now - as far as I know, just ACT street events, and local club events run by regional clubs in a few states. Other ACT events and Melbourne park/street have mostly come on board this year.
With regards to Eventor, although I use it very little and so don't feel qualified to comment on it too much specifically, I can talk more generically on the use, problems and coordination of entry/results etc. systems more generally.
I can see the same generic problems that would present themselves here as in most other sports, namely the reality that many national federations, indeed clubs and independent organisations have their own implementations that they need for maintaining records of athletes, facilitating event entries and related purchases and logistics (i.e. buying merchandise, booking accomodation, feeding the event management systems with data or reverse for results, calculating rankings, notifying entries and officials, generating statistics for evaluation etc. etc.)
The problem here is that there will never be a system that can have all the functions implemented that is needed by every stakeholder, nor should it all be done by one system, because it would be a monster and crazy expensive to develop and maintain. Then the question is where do you draw the boundary and how to align/synchronise data interfaces, and as these systems take many shapes and forms, with different spheres of influence and coverage (some organisations choose to develop their own, others utilise a commercial offering and co-exist etc.). There are further complications when you want to synchronise - which is the system of master record (and you need consensus on this because you can't say it's the national federation's database in one case, but the international federation's database in another, and there are arguments for both which will be good for some federations but bad for another), what about internationalisation (e.g. cyrillic character based names in Russia vs mandarin characters in China etc) and how the data looks like once sychronised, etc.
And then, we haven't even been talking about how it looks to the individual athletes, as you mention, maintaining data in multiple systems etc.
This is an incredibly difficult topic and I have yet to see this work - even with federations with much more money it costs an awful lot and it isn't really about the single system the international federation uses (that should, in my view, be more one of the outcomes than the focus area), more about the federated data structure and policies debated and implemented across the landscape. Looking at IOF Eventor itself may only show the symptoms but should not be the root cause or the solution itself. I have no idea if there is/was work in the IOF around these things I mention, I suspect there is (haven't looked into the topic here, although have been working on this in other sports). A lot of this work as can be seen from the comment above would probably be incredibly boring for an average athlete and ideally invisible (although some of the policy decisions may filter down as painful but sometimes necessary admin work, such as when eliminating multiple master systems for athlete records for consistency).
Back to the original topic, IOF have written to all member federations this week advising of their revised 2017 budget, with significant cuts to both forecast income and expenditure (the latter mostly a EUR 95,000 reduction in staff costs), and a revised forecast surplus of around EUR 10,000. Also of interest to some here will be that the online WOC coverage generated EUR 30,600 in revenue (compared with EUR 19,700 last year). It probably helped that word got around that, after the first day, the coverage mostly actually worked this year.
Good signs, financially. Sounds like the right direction, from this limited info. Regarding WOC coverage, maybe interest (and revenue) continues to go up. If the coverage works, then I may get it next year. I dislike paying to get frustrated, but would be interested in following WOC.
The IOF has published the 2016 financial report. This is a quick look analysis.https://iofreflections.blog/2017/07/18/close-to-th...
The numbers are shocking. 2016 losses were much larger than thought in January 2017. At the end of 2016 less than 2 weeks net cash reserves left. A small negative variance (far smaller than experienced in previous years!) may push the IOF over the edge.
Member federations may need to start to warm up to the idea of a cash call, say an extraordinary annual membership fee.
New post: https://iofreflections.blog/2017/07/24/the-world-g...
The World Games – “the highest profile event for sports not in the Olympic Games” according to the IOF Newsletter – have started on 20 July.
Chances are that you did not hear about The World Games from other sources. It is not carried by mainstream media. Yet, the IOF spends on it well above its (our!) means in the name of the "Olympic Dream". In this post we look at the financials, in the next one at the reality of using The World Games as a stepping stone for the Olympics.
The highest profile games not to have a profile...
Leho Haldna, the President of the IOF, says that
"Our athletes and federations have to realise that the road to the Olympics is via The World Games, and The World Games are the highest level multi-sport event recognised by IOC where orienteering is on the programme."
Yet, only 1 of the 6 new sports selected for the permanent program after 2000 participated in The World Games, and only 2 of the 5 sports selected only for Tokyo 2020 may claim that their participation in The World Games may have had an impact on their selection. More details in the new blog post.https://iofreflections.blog/2017/07/25/the-world-g...
In some countries sports officials take World Games seriously. I know the Ukrainian federation got more money from the government after Volynska's bronze in 2013. Also, there are posters
with World Games participants, including orienteers, in Kiev subway, so there is extra publicity for orienteering. This Facebook post also mentions TV broadcasts. So Olympics or not, participation is beneficial in some ways.
Sandor I am following your researches with interest. But the use of that very funny Hitler parody doesn't support your thesis. It illustrates conservative reaction against a number of changes in the sport which have gained acceptance and enjoyment.
I dont know how other federations restructure their elite events pyramid but having European / regional champs biannually and world champs each year doesn't help to make WG as a prime elite event. Also financial and promotional aspects should be more clear so athletes, federations and fans know what are the advantages for the sport beside being part. IOF and IWGA business relationship is also important for federations and it should be presented more clearly. Relationship between IOC, organizer and federations at Olympics is one of the main issue each 4 years.
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